SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – It was a glorious January day for so many reasons, the Southern California morning sun streaking through the tinted corner office windows. As the oak office doors opened inward, the view through the somewhat blinding morning light expanded all the way to the mighty Pacific — and in the distance, Santa Catalina.
Nerves had consumed all of us, invited to spend some time with the 40th president of the United States. But as we walked into an office containing a man of such high regard and such amazing importance, our uncertainty disappeared with his warm welcome. "Hello," he said. "C'mon in."
I of course will never forget the time I had with Ronald Reagan. I can still remember every word, every gesture and every facial expression.
It truly felt like I had known the man forever and he treated others and me in the room equally. Stories, smiles and comfort spread across the room more powerful than the rays of the sun, or at least it felt that way.
What remains so interesting is that so many others who never met the president felt the same way I did.
One college friend who saw our coverage of Reagan's passing writes, "What a sad, sad, day. This country owes so much to that man, possibly even its very existence. I know for our company, his tax policies are what enabled my dad to reinvest and build his company to what it is today. I doubt we will ever see another president in our lifetime that measures up to Reagan. I think history will treat him very, very, well."
Whether you were a fan of his politics as so many were and are, or whether your opinions were directly opposite, the outpouring of sympathy remains amazing.
The lawn in front of the mortuary in Santa Monica, Calif., is blanketed with flags, balloons, cards, notes, pictures and cowboy hats, even boxes of the infamous jellybean.
At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library about 35 miles away, the entrance looks similar. The presidential sign is enveloped with mementos. People of all denominations, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic livelihoods are here to pay their respects.
One sign says, "Thank you God for giving him to us." Another says, "You are now with the stars."
Throughout the day as people come to say a prayer, or leave a memento, some stop to speak with us.
One lady cries as she remembers the first president she ever saw after emigrating from the Far East. A Russian man says his country and the freedom it now has is a testament to Reagan and his dedication to end communism. These people never met the president, but all felt as if they always knew him.
Most of my time with the president was jovial. There were the jokes about his memory, laughs about the sorority girl who dumped him (what a mistake that was!) and questions, if you can believe it, about our lives.
I was a lucky one. To have met the man and see him several other times during ceremonies at his glorious Simi Valley library. Now years later we return. A still beautiful scene, a still comfortable feel.
In life and now in death Reagan has a way to make us feel proud to be Americans no matter what our standing. We are all welcome here as we pay our respects and you can bet he is smiling and enjoying the visit with us.